Journey North

Since 1994, Journey North citizen scientists have tracked animal migration. Every year, thousands of observers across North America report observations of monarch butterflies, six different species of hummingbirds, common loons, Baltimore and Bullock’s orioles, red-winged blackbirds, barn swallows, American robins, and bald eagles. These observations help researchers understand both migration patterns and species distribution as they move from breeding to wintering grounds and also how these patterns might be shifting due to climate change. Register with Journey North to contribute your observations.

  • Training required: No background knowledge required. Resources available online. Registration is free.
  • Materials/equipment required: No equipment required. Binoculars are helpful.
  • Best suited for: Ages 12+. All abilities welcome.
  • Time/frequency: Variable, approximately 15 minutes for each observation to be made and reported.
  • Location: Anywhere Journey North key species are present. Sites can be any size; urban, suburban, or rural; public or private.
  • Contact: Nancy Sheehan, nsheehan@wisc.edu
  • Website: Journey North
  • Affiliation: UW–Madison Arboretum

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) involves volunteers from across North America in monarch research, collecting long-term data on larval monarch populations and milkweed habitat. The project focuses on monarch distribution and abundance during the breeding season, with many optional activities including monitoring a milkweed site and counting monarch eggs and caterpillars, comparing the characteristics of milkweed plants, and monitoring monarch larva for parasitoids. As an MLMP volunteer, your contributions will help conserve monarchs and their threatened migratory cycle and advance our understanding of butterfly ecology in general.

  • Training required: No background knowledge required. Virtual and in-person trainings are also offered seasonally at a cost.
  • Materials/equipment required: Pencil and printed data sheet, hand lens, and monarch instar identification cards helpful.
  • Best suited for: Adults, and families with children ages 6+. Physically, requires bending down to look at plants and count larva.
  • Time/frequency: Depends on activities, but approximately one hour per week during the spring and summer.
  • Location: A minimum of 10 milkweed plants make a “site,” and sites can be anywhere: urban, suburban, or rural, public or private, in your backyard garden or a public park.
  • Contact: info@mlmp.org
  • Website: Monarch Larva Monitoring Project
  • Affiliation: UW–Madison Arboretum and Monarch Joint Venture

Dragonfly Monitoring Project

Volunteers identify and document adult dragonflies throughout the flight season (May–September) at Arboretum ponds and wetlands. Data is reported to the project’s profile on anecdata.org.

  • Training required: No background knowledge required. Free two-hour online training available upon request.
  • Materials/equipment required: Pencil and printed data sheet, binoculars helpful.
  • Best suited for: Ages 12+
  • Time/frequency: Monitoring takes at least 10 minutes, frequency up to the volunteer.
  • Location: At 10 sites around the Arboretum.
  • Contact: citizenscience@arboretum.wisc.edu
  • Affiliation: UW–Madison Arboretum

Fungal Diversity Project

The Arboretum Fungal Diversity Project began in 2019 in partnership with the Madison Mycological Society. The project goals are to document the biodiversity of fungi at the Arboretum and to foster a community of fungal enthusiasts by learning together. Participation is easy and all are welcome. Join the project on iNaturalist, then take photos of any fungi you see and upload them. Part of this project also focuses on collecting voucher specimens and DNA sequencing of our collection. The observations we collect contribute to publicly available datasets used by researchers and conservationists across the United States. We have documented over 150 species of fungi in the Arboretum, but there are more to discover.

  • Training required: A project introduction and resources are available online.
  • Materials/equipment required: Smartphone with the iNaturalist app, or a camera and internet access.
  • Best suited for: No experience or knowledge necessary.
  • Time/frequency: Any time. Participation is welcome whenever visiting the Arboretum.
  • Location: Anywhere within the Arboretum. (Notes: please stay on marked trails. Also, foraging is not allowed at the Arboretum.)
  • Contact: Jessica Ross and Kathleen Thompson, mycological.society@gmail.com, or citizenscience@arboretum.wisc.edu
  • Affiliation: UW–Madison Arboretum

Chloride Spring Monitoring

This project’s goal is to determine if the groundwater supplying Lake Wingra springs is experiencing acute or chronic chloride impairments by assessing specific conductance and chloride levels over time. This project was started in 2011 by Roger Bannerman, with support from Friends of Lake Wingra, as part of the Urban Road Salt Study, which looked at accumulation of chloride levels in surface and groundwater due to increased use of road salt for de-icing roads. This project will continue to assess long-term chloride levels in groundwater at the springs surrounding Lake Wingra. We monitor the springs year-round.

  • Training required: No background knowledge is required. In-person training required, offered occasionally. A long-term commitment is required.
  • Materials/equipment required: Pencil and printed data sheet, thermometer, conductivity meter, and reagents for conductivity meter. Materials and equipment are borrowed from the Arboretum when monitoring and returned afterward.
  • Best suited for: Ages 18+. Preference for retired professionals who can commit to long-term projects. Physically, requires an ability to walk on slippery and uneven ground and bend over water for a period of time.
  • Time/frequency: Depends on the total number of volunteers, but estimated 1–2 hours per month. Sign-up required.
  • Location: At springs surrounding Lake Wingra.
  • Contact: citizenscience@arboretum.wisc.edu
  • Affiliation: UW–Madison Arboretum, Wisconsin Salt Wise, UW–Madison Center for Limnology, Friends of Lake Wingra, Edgewood College, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

The Arboretum also offers a few community-based science and research projects focused on Asian jumping worms and stormwater management. Please see Community Projects for more information.